MANILA, Sept. 23, 2011—Pro-life groups have long warned that the crafty legalese of the “reproductive health” (RH) bill could open the floodgates for ethically questionable and abortive drugs, and this was what a co-author of the controversial measure raised at the Senate floor on Wednesday.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson threatened to withdraw his name as co-author of the RH bill if the entry of so-called “morning-after pills” – abortive drugs currently banned – is allowed.
Unlike the daily oral contraceptive pill, the stated mechanism of action of the morning-after pill or “emergency contraceptive pill” (ECP) is the prevention of the implantation of the fertilized egg onto a woman’s uterine wall, causing a very early abortion.
The name “morning-after pill” is a misnomer, though. Abortion provider Planned Parenthood defines ECPs as “birth control you can use to prevent pregnancy up to five days (120 hours) after unprotected sex.”
ECPs could thus run afoul of the Constitution, which requires the state to protect life from the moment of conception, which is fertilization or the union of the egg and the sperm.
Lacson argued that the “possibility of life should be respected.”
“Noted,” was RH bill sponsor Sen. Pia Cayetano’s reply to Lacson, a former national police chief.
The daily oral contraceptive pill, however, is also considered to be abortifacient because aside from preventing ovulation, it can also prevent implantation by making the uterus hostile to the fertilized egg or zygote. This is the pill’s back-up mechanism in case of “breakthrough ovulation” and fertilization.
The RH bill, it should be pointed out, allows “universal access” to state-funded contraceptives and family planning, which covers “individuals,” and requires schools to teach pupils how to use them as early as Grade 5.
The Senate version of the RH bill, or Senate Bill No. 2865, states: “The State likewise guarantees universal access to medically-safe, effective, legal, affordable, and quality reproductive health care services, methods, devices, supplies and relevant information and education thereon according to the priority needs of women, children and other underprivileged sectors.”
The bill’s language repeatedly makes access to a “full range” of contraceptives a strict legal requirement.
For instance, Section 4 defines family planning as a “program which enables couples and individuals to decide freely and responsibly the number and spacing of their children and to have the information and means to do so, and to have access to a full range of safe, affordable, effective, and modern methods of preventing or timing pregnancy.”
Section 18 penalizes healthcare providers who “knowingly withhold information or restrict the dissemination thereof, and/or intentionally provide incorrect information regarding programs and services on reproductive health including the right to informed choice and access to a full range of legal, medically-safe and effective family planning methods.”
The penalty is up to six months in prison and up to P100,000 in fines. (Dominic Francisco)